That’s right – I went all the way to Capitol Hill to speak with US Senate staff about how they can leverage social media for their office. The topic couldn’t have been more relevant with “WeinerGate” and the Ohio House Speaker having his Twitter account hacked. I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak at 2 different conferences for the Senate this summer, and I was really excited to connect with Senate staffers about the potential with social media marketing.
The focus wasn’t on campaigning (which is entirely separate) but more about how senators can use social media to connect with their constituents and share messages. The reality is that politics and politicians have become increasingly separated from their constituents over time, but now, with social media, politicians have a tremendous opportunity to make politics more open, transparent and accessible.
There are some politicians who are very advanced in their social media use, however due to the risks, many are slow to adopt. Currently, there are about 40 senators using Twitter, a small number blogging and many on Facebook and YouTube.
While full-fledged use of social media may be a while away, there are a number of simple opportunities for politicians to use social media.
Easy Opportunity #1: Stop Promoting and Start Sharing
One of the key opportunities for those already using social media is to stop using it as a one-way opportunity to promote appearances and press mentions. The power of social media is about connecting with people about the things that they care about, not just the things that you care about. Stop thinking about what you want and start thinking about what they want to hear from you. How can you use social media for the benefit of your constituents.
Easy Opportunity #2: Use Scribd to Share PDF Documents
There are lots of documents that you may want to share with your constituents. Rather than sending them around the web to find a file that they will have to download, share key documents on Scribd. This allows people to view the document directly on your blog or in Facebook without having to download the entire document. Additionally, the document is searchable, so people can look for specific segments that they are interested in.
Easy Opportunity #3: Start a Blog for Informal Communications
A blog is a great tool for informal communication. Share your point of view on an issue, or use it to simply explain a complex issue to your constituents. A blog is a great home base for all online social media activity. Be sure to be transparent about who is writing and what you are writing about.
Easy Opportunity (maybe not so easy) #4: Create a Social Media Policy
So this isn’t necessarily an easy opportunity, but it is something that you can’t afford to ignore. It is absolutely vital to provide staff with guidelines and rules about how they can leverage their personal social media assets both in the workplace and on their own time. The reality is that your staff represent you 24/7 and it is important to make sure that they understand the implications of what they post and are aware of any guidelines.
Easy Opportunity #5: Use Video
Lots of politicians are using video, but they are primarily using their YouTube channels as a place to repost press appearances or other news events. Instead, YouTube can be a powerful way to communicate with constituents. You can use YouTube to explain complicated topics, share your point of view or to respond to articles in the press. The reality is that the more “real” you seem the more people will trust you, and video is a great way to show your personality.